More news from Pomona: the business improvement district gets renewed for another 10 years, highlights from the council meeting, a culture corner and more, all in Friday’s column.
Eastside entrance to Rainbow Gardens off Locust Street, Pomona, courtesy Darin Kuna
Rainbow Gardens was a popular dance hall in Pomona from the 1940s to the 1960s. The location was 150 E. Monterey St. (at Garey Avenue), immediately south of the YMCA. I believe the view in the photo is looking east on Monterey from Garey.
Rainbow Gardens opened in 1948, although the building had housed the Palmetto Ballroom from 1945. (Previously the site had held a garage that was turned in 1936 into an athletic club, which hosted wrestling, and then in 1938 into a roller rink, before burning down in 1943 and being rebuilt as the Palmetto.
An impressive number of well-known musicians performed at Rainbow Gardens. Names include western swing star Spade Cooley, crooners Frankie Laine, Perry Como and Nat “King” Cole and band leaders Harry James, Les Brown, Freddy Martin, Lawrence Welk and Count Basie. Capacity was 2,500.
The Gardens is best remembered, though, for the R&B and rock bands who performed there — the club was on what was known as the Chicano circuit, which included the El Monte American Legion Stadium — and attracted large, mixed audiences, especially Latinos. KRLA hosted weekend dance parties.
Acts who performed at the Gardens include Ritchie Valens, Roy Orbison, Chris Montez, Lou Rawls, Little Richard, Frankie Avalon, Tito Puente, Perez Prado, Herb Alpert, the Romancers and, before their first record came out, the Beach Boys.
The Mixtures, a group from Oxnard that served as the Gardens’ house band, released an album titled “Stompin’ at the Gardens,” and Ronnie and the Pomona Casuals put out a single, “Swimming at the Rainbow.” Candelario Mendoza, a radio disc jockey and later a Pomona educator, was an emcee, booker and consultant from 1950 to about 1962.
Interest in the Gardens began to wane in the early 1960s, and it burned to the ground March 25, 1965. Apparently no cause was ever determined and it was not rebuilt. To my knowledge, the lot remained empty until the Monterey Station apartments were built there almost 50 years later.
Most of the above came from “Land of Thousand Dances: Chicano Rock ‘n’ Roll in Southern California,” “A World of Its Own” and the Progress-Bulletin files. I’ve been reading up on Rainbow Gardens for an eventual column or two. If you ever went there or know anything about it, please comment for posterity!
For the record, the original photo with this post, now placed below, is of a Rainbow Gardens nightclub from Los Angeles and was taken from the Inland Empire 50’s, 60’s, 70’s Facebook page. I apologize for the mistake and thank Darin Kuna, Kenny Soper and others from the Growing Up in Pomona in the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s page for the correction.
Fuller Seminary’s planned move from Pasadena to Pomona is just starting to take shape, as five property purchases have come to light — including one right in this column’s wheelhouse. I break some news and make some jokes in Sunday’s column.
The former Firehouse Inn in Pomona has finally been sold, a positive sign for a building that’s been empty nearly 30 years. Also: a full complement of Culture Corner items and a Valley Vignette, all in Friday’s column.
Following up on last Friday’s column about the Pomona home at 1195 Washington Ave., I went to the event Sunday afternoon to tag along as child actor Jon Provost revisited his boyhood home for the first time as an adult. Then I stuck around for the ceremony dedicating it as Lassie House. I write about all that in Wednesday’s column. Above, Provost, his wife Laurie Jacobson and yours truly. Not pictured: Lassie.
The home at 1195 Washington Avenue in Pomona is undergoing extensive renovation. An event Sunday will celebrate the work done so far and include the installation of a plaque designating the home where child star Jon Provost lived as a city landmark. Come check it out from 1 to 4 p.m. that day. In the meantime, won’t you read my Friday column about the house?
Above is a current photo, shot by me; below is a 2008 photo shot by Ren.
I wrote last week about Robert F. Kennedy’s visit to Pomona (and Ontario and Fontana). In response, a couple dozen people commented on a Pomona Facebook page with their memories of that day. I turned that into Friday’s column.
(Only a handful commented on an Ontario page, and their memories didn’t square with the facts. The most detailed involved Kennedy driving up Euclid Avenue, which to my knowledge never happened, and doing so the day he was shot.)
A Pulitzer-winning biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder leads me to a surprise the Pomona Public Library didn’t realize it had: a set of signed first editions of Wilder’s “Little House on the Prairie” books. Also: a bunch of Culture Corner items, a plug for this blog and a Valley Vignette, all in Friday’s column. Above, one of the books’ title page. Hey, bulldog.
Above is the Bob’s Big Boy that operated in Pomona at 221 W. Holt Ave. at Main Street. The photo comes from the redoubtable Darin Kuna at the Growing Up in Pomona Facebook page.
Here’s one from reader Bill Marino, which he shot circa 1970. Big Boy has a nice glow about him.
I couldn’t determine when this Bob’s opened. It closed in 1995. It went through several tenants after that, including a stretch as a combination Chinese-Pakistani restaurant, Shalimar Garden, in the 2000s. That or Super China Buffet may have been the last tenant. It’s been vacant for five or more years.
Here it is in its current state. There’s a for-lease sign.
Any memories of the Pomona Bob’s, readers?